from the world's big
In this remote Indian village, every person's name is a song
In the village of Kongthong, villagers don't call each other by their name; instead, they call out using unique, bespoke tunes that resemble birdsong.
- In the remote mountain village of Kongthong, villagers call out to each other using short tunes that resemble birdsong.
- These songs act as a second name for each villager, and are used more frequently than a villagers "real" name.
- The practice is called jingrwai lawbei, which translates to "song of the clan's first woman."
If you were to approach the mountain village of Kongthong in India, you might notice the cacophony of peculiar bird calls echoing through the jungle. They wouldn't sound like any birds that you had heard before, though — these songs come from the villagers themselves.
They call to their neighbors in song. They sing to their children in to eat. They rhapsodize to find each other in the jungle.
Each song is unique, and each one refers to a specific individual. The practice, known as jingrwai lawbei, means each villager is given a musical name alongside their more traditional one.
Kongthong is an isolated, ancient village that's been in the mountains of the Indian state Meghalaya for five centuries. It only become electrified in 2000, and until 2013 when a dirt road was constructed, it was a several-hour hike from the nearest town.
Villagers say that jingrwai lawbei is an expression of maternal love — the term itself translates to "song of the clan's first woman," and so the practice is in honor of the mythical woman who first established the community.
Kongthong is a matrilineal village, unlike most other Indian villages. Husbands take their wives' names, and property is passed down from mother to daughter, but it's not entirely as idyllic as it sounds. Women don't have much decision-making power, and male and female roles are clearly defined. Raising children is distinctly a female job, while males make most of the major decisions in the village.
When a child is born in Kongthong, their mother gives them song. Often, the father composes a song as well, until eventually, the best tune is selected. They come in two versions: a short version and a longer one, which lasts about 30 seconds or so. In the house, the shorter tune is used, but in the forest, the longer one is used. This practice partly began from the superstition that if a ghost in the jungle learns your name, then they can take it, making you sick and causing your subsequent death.
Why use jingrwai lawbei?
What is the difference between jingrwai iawbei and a regular name? "Calling out by jingrwai Iawbei is calling with love and respect," the villagers say. "Jingrwai Iawbei is unique for it lives as long as the person lives."
"It expresses my joy and love for my baby," said 31-year-old mother Pyndaplin Shabong to the AFP.
They're not used all the time, either. Rothell Khongsit, a community leader, explained that "if my son has done something wrong, if I'm angry with him, he broke my heart, at that moment I will call him by his actual name."
The songs have no specific meaning, and no words are involved — instead, they resemble bird song. "We are living in far-flung villages, we are surrounded by the dense forest, by the hills," said Khongsit. "So we are in touch with nature, we are in touch with all the gracious living things that God has created. Creatures have their own identity. The birds, so many animals, they have ways of calling each other."
An Indian villager whistles as he calls to a friend in a field in Kongthong village. Photo credit: Biju BORO / AFP
Unfortunately, modernity threatens to undermine the tradition. Music from the outside world has influenced the practice, with one woman naming her child after the tune from the Bollywood song "Kaho Na Pyar Hai." As mobile phones become more common in the village, it's become easier to call one's peers rather than to sing out their name.
In order to preserve this practice, Khongsit and other village leaders believe that they need to open the village up to the world. They've constructed cottages for tourists, who are drawn both by the unique singing tradition there and the many living root bridges that are throughout Meghalaya.
Emotional intelligence is a skill sought by many employers. Here's how to raise yours.
- Daniel Goleman's 1995 book Emotional Intelligence catapulted the term into widespread use in the business world.
- One study found that EQ (emotional intelligence) is the top predictor of performance and accounts for 58% of success across all job types.
- EQ has been found to increase annual pay by around $29,000 and be present in 90% of top performers.
The rough beauty of the American West seems as far as you can get from the polished corridors of power in Washington DC.
The rough beauty of the American West seems as far as you can get from the polished corridors of power in Washington DC. Until you look at the title to the land. The federal government owns large tracts of the western states: from a low of 29.9% in Montana, already more than the national average, up to a whopping 84.5% in Nevada.
Researchers are using technology to make visual the complex concepts of racism, as well as its political and social consequences.
- Often thought of first as gaming tech, virtual reality has been increasingly used in research as a tool for mimicking real-life scenarios and experiences in a safe and controlled environment.
- Focusing on issues of oppression and the ripple affect it has throughout America's political, educational, and social systems, Dr. Courtney D. Cogburn of Columbia University School of Social Work and her team developed a VR experience that gives users the opportunity to "walk a mile" in the shoes of a black man as he faces racism at three stages in his life: as a child, during adolescence, and as an adult.
- Cogburn says that the goal is to show how these "interwoven oppressions" continue to shape the world beyond our individual experiences. "I think the most important and powerful human superpower is critical consciousness," she says. "And that is the ability to think, be aware and think critically about the world and people around you...it's not so much about the interpersonal 'Do I feel bad, do I like you?'—it's more 'Do I see the world as it is? Am I thinking critically about it and engaging it?'"
President Vladimir Putin announces approval of Russia's coronavirus vaccine but scientists warn it may be unsafe.
A new coronavirus vaccine on display at the Nikolai Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow, Russia.
Credit: Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr/ Russian Direct Investment Fund via AP
Medical workers draw blood from volunteers participating in a trial of a coronavirus vaccine at the Budenko Main Military Hospital outside Moscow, Russia.
Credit: Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP
A report from the New York Times raises questions over how the teletherapy startup Talkspace handles user data.